Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen, written by Luisa Weiss, features over 100 classic German, Austrian, and Swiss recipes adapted for the American home baker. For those still looking for holiday baking ideas, there is even a chapter devoted to Christmas favorites including Heidesand (Sandy Almond Sugar Cookies), Elisenlebkuchen (Glazed Flourless Nuremberg Lebkuchen), Biberle (Gingerbread Almond Nuggets), Springerle (Swabian Anise Cookies), and Zimtsterne (Cinnamon-Almond Meringue Stars).
Luisa Weiss is an American-Italian food writer based in Berlin, Germany. She created the blog, The Wednesday Chef, in 2005 and is also the author of My Berlin Kitchen. She has been featured on Design*Sponge, National Public Radio, Food & Wine, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Harper’s Bazaar Germany, and more.
Chapters are divided based on the type of baked good: Cookies, Cakes, Yeasted Cakes, Tortes and Strudels, Savories, Breads and Rolls, Christmas Favorites, and Basics.
Weiss begins with a guide to basic pantry ingredients popular in German baking and includes where to find them, how they are used, storing tips, and possible substitutes. She also goes over helpful baking equipment. I particularly loved the insights into German culture like the estimation that Germany has over three hundred types of bread or the meal schedule that began during agricultural times: early breakfast, zweites Frühstück or Pausenbrot(second breakfast around 10-11 or bread with cheese/ham), Mittagessen (lunch), Kaffeezeit (coffee time), and Abendbrot (dinner).
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. I appreciate that the recipe titles are labeled in German and English. Each includes a detailed headnote with background information, inspiration, guidance, and storage tips. The photography is provided by Aubrie Pick. Many of the recipes (about 31) include a beautifully-styled photo of the finished product, full to half page. I do wish there had been more included, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with what the recipes should look like. You will also find some gorgeous scenery of Berlin.
This book is a great pick for those interested in baking and/or German cuisine. Many of the recipes use instant or fresh yeast (Weiss doesn’t recommend active dry yeast due to its unreliability). Complexity ranges from simple loaves to the more advanced tortes and decorated cakes. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average supermarket, but a few may require a trip to a specialty European market such as European-style butter, semolina, speck, quark, pearl sugar, food-grade lye, candied orange/citron peel, and kirsch. While most of the recipes are vegetarian-friendly, many of the recipes in the savory section include speck (bacon).
Quarkstollen is a great German baking option for those who aren’t a fan of raisins and other dried fruits in their holiday bread (like I was as a child and now my son). It also involves no yeast or resting times. A basic baking powder bread dough is combined with toasted slivered almonds, almond meal, lemon zest, and quark. It is formed into a loaf and baked until golden. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
This stollen is best the day it is made. Weiss recommends storing it at room temperature wrapped in plastic to extend the life to 3-4 days or slicing and toasting the stale stollen for breakfast.
The quark adds to the soft, tender texture. Quark (translates to curds in German) is a fresh creamed cheese with a texture similar to Greek yogurt. It is a great breakfast item that low in sodium, lower in fat than cream cheese, but high in protein and other nutrients. It was originally made in the home by leaving fresh milk in a warm place to sour, then moving to a warm oven to curdle further. It was then strained to separate the whey. It is now made with the help of lactic acid bacteria. When I lived in Florida, it wasn’t available in any supermarkets like it is here in the D.C. area (Whole Foods, Wegmans, specialty European markets). Weiss also includes a recipe to make your own. Warm buttermilk in a 150 degree F (65 C) oven for 8-12 hours to separate the milk solids from the whey. Drain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve for 2-5 hours before squeezing out the excess moisture to make quark. Refrigerate until ready to use.
High fat, European-style butter is recommended for the recipes in this book. European-style butter is a cultured butter that has a longer churning time to produce a higher fat content (at least 82%) compared to its American counterpart. This creates a richer and lightly sour flavor with a lower water content that is perfect for baking. It is becoming more common in larger supermarkets. I haven’t tried it yet, but you can also make your own cultured butter.
I also made Schwarz-Weiss Gebäck (Checkerboard Cookies), Russischer Zupfkuchen (Chocolate Quark Cheesecake), Zwiebelkuchen (Savory Onion Cake), and Mohnhörnchen (Poppy-Seed Crescent Rolls).
Schwarz-Weiss Gebäck are chocolate and vanilla checkerboard cookies popular during Christmas. The chocolate and vanilla cookie doughs are formed into squared-off logs then glued together with an egg wash. After chilling, the dough is sliced and baked until lightly golden. Weiss also includes instructions to form the cookies into an enclosed checkerboard or pinwheel pattern.
Russischer Zupfkuchen is a quark-based cheesecake with a chocolate cookie dough-like crust. Before rolling the crust out, some of it is set aside to break off into pieces and scatter over the top of the sweetened quark filling. It may be called Russian, but the cake actually has nothing to do with Russia- though the origins are still a bit of a mystery. Mine cracked a bit across the top, but it was still quite delicious. I loved the pieces of crust on the top in addition to the base.
Weiss includes a collection of savory cakes, breads, and tarts for those needing a break from the sweet. Zwiebelkuchen is a savory yeasted cake topped with caramelized onions, speck, and caraway seeds. I loved the ratio of thick-crust dough with the caramelized onion topping.
Mohnhörnchen are savory crescent rolls topped with an egg wash and poppy seeds before baking until golden. They are delicious for breakfast with jam/honey/nutella or paired with a salad/soup for lunch. Weiss came across the recipe from Meike Peters, the blogger at Eat in My Kitchen. These rolls, like most bread, are best shortly after baking, but Weiss recommends splitting them in half horizontally and toasting in a pan of melted butter to revive them the next day.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Quarkstollen (German Quark-Almond Sweet Bread)
Adapted from Classic German Baking
1 (12 inch/30 cm) loaf
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) slivered almonds
1 cup (100 grams) ground blanched almonds
3 1/4 cups minus 1 tablespoon (400 grams) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of 1 organic lemon
8 1/2 tablespoons (120 grams) unsalted high fat European-style butter, room temperature
1 cup (250 grams) Quark, drained if necessary
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). On a baking sheet, sprinkle the slivered almonds in a single layer. Toast in preheated oven until golden and fragrant, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Clean the baking sheet and line with parchment.
In a large bowl, combine the toasted almonds, ground almonds, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, lemon peel, butter, Quark, and eggs. Knead until well combined and sticky. Place on the lined baking sheet and form into a rectangle 6×12 inches (15×30 cm).
Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 60-65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving, particularly the day of baking.